Asian Heritage Month
May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, a time to reflect on and celebrate the contributions that Canadians of Asian origin continue to make, to the growth and prosperity of Canada.
Asian Heritage Month has been celebrated across Canada since the 1990s. In December 2001, the Senate of Canada adopted a motion proposed by Senator Vivienne Poy to officially designate May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada. In May 2002, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month.
Events in Asian Canadian History
Since the late-1700s, people of Asian origin have made important contributions to Canadian heritage and identity. Each year, as part of its annual Asian Heritage Month campaign, the Government of Canada encourages Canadian to learn about how Canadians of Asian origin have helped to shape Canada as we know it today. These include, amongst others:
- Canadians of Chinese origin
- Canadians of Filipino origin
- Canadians of Japanese origin
- Canadians of Korean origin
- Canadians of South Asian origin
- Canadians of Vietnamese origin
- The Canadian Pacific Railway
- The right to vote
Noteworthy Edmontonians of Asian Origin
Ai Thien Tran
Ai Thien Tran, who is a Canadian of Vietnamese origin, is currently working with the government of Alberta as a social worker and a frontline health-care worker in corrections health. He has been a resident of Edmonton for the last many years. Ai Thien Tran became the first Canadian of Vietnamese origin to receive Canada's Top 25 Immigrants Award. His life story shows courage, resilience, and an indefatigable quest to succeed. It was an arduous journey for Tran when he left Vietnam as a 20-year-old boat person. He spent 12 years as a stateless refugee in the Philippines. Finally, he arrived in Canada in 2001. At the time, on top of having to face the newcomer's typical challenges, he had to deal with psychological and emotional trauma left over from having lived in isolation. Through it all, Tran showed great resilience. He worked full time while studying social work at McGill University, where he graduated with honours. He was invited to be a lifetime member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. In 2006, he was one of 10 students in the world to receive the Golden Key scholarship. Tran’s leadership and outstanding contribution to the McGill School of Social Work earned him the Sadie Aronoff award. In 2012, Ai had the honour of receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2016, he also had the honour to be featured among distinguished Canadians in the July special double issue of Maclean’s magazine celebrating Canada’s 149th birthday. During the Social Work Week of 2017, Ai was invited to the Alberta Legislative Assembly where he was recognized for his “advocacy and making a difference in the lives of Albertans."
The Honourable Norman L. Kwong
Norman Kwong became Alberta’s first Lieutenant-Governor of Asian origin in January 2005. However, many people know him as the first Canadian of Chinese origin to play in the Canadian Football League. He was born in Calgary afterhis parents immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s from Canton, China, despite having to pay the $500 head tax. Kwong began his professional football career in 1948, one year after the Chinese gained the right to vote in Canada. Known as the "China Clipper," he played for the Calgary Stampeders for three years before joining the Edmonton Eskimos. By the time he had retired from football in 1960, he won six Grey Cups, was named "All Canadian Fullback" five times, won two Schenley trophies as the league’s most outstanding player, and set 30 league records. Kwong was awarded the Order of Canada in 1998 in recognition of his football career.
Regula Qureshi is an ethnomusicologist, a scholar of Urdu and Hindi language and literature, and a scholar of the art music of India and Pakistan. She was born in Switzerland and became a Canadian citizen in 1968 when she followed her husband, a political scientist from India, to the University of Alberta. She gave numerous lecture-recitals on sarangi, Indian music, and Muslim chant in Canada, the United States, Pakistan, India, and Western Europe. She was awarded the Jaap Kunst Prize by the Society for Ethnomusicology in 1968 for the article "Tarannum: The Chanting of Urdu Poetry." In 1995 she was granted a Killam Annual Professorship from the University of Alberta; and in 1996 she received a fine arts award from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Juliette Kang, born in Edmonton to Korean parents, was a child prodigy who began violin lessons at age four and made her debut in Montréal at seven. At age nine, she was accepted as a violin student on scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and became a student of Jascha Brodsky. By age 11, she had attracted international attention, winning top prizes at the 1986 Beijing International Youth Violin Competition in China. In 1989, at 13, she became the youngest artist to win New York’s Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Kang has performed with every major orchestra in Canada and many orchestras from around the world. Her repertoire ranges from baroque to contemporary, including the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Ravel. In 1996, the New York Times predicted that Kang would change our culture. She performed some of the world’s most challenging violin repertoires; including Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, performed with the Reno Chamber Orchestra, and William Walton’s Violin Concerto, with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Asian Heritage Month - May 2021 Social Media Posts
Senior Band students at Archbishop MacDonald Catholic High School are learning about Taiwanese traditional melodies by exploring the works of Japanese composer Satoshi Yagisawa.
According to the 2016 census, Tagalog was the second-most common mother tongue of people living in Edmonton, following English. ECSD offers students an opportunity to explore the Filipino Language and Culture at three of our schools. Students at Holy Trinity participated in traditional games called “Larong Pinoy” to provide them an opportunity to explore and appreciate Filipino culture.